SPOTLIGHT: Turpentine by Jonathan Butcher

Night Shift

We would walk through those narrow grey
streets each evening, oblivious to the
inconvenience of our presence. The houses
like sandcastles ripe for kicking, which when
unlit seemed to lose their purpose.
We could almost hear the twitch of eyelids
flicker, their faces at intervals plastered to
those pristine windows. We convinced
ourselves their heads slept in comas,
whilst we continued to scrape our heels.

Each one bound in holy matrimony; entrenched
foundations built with broken bricks. The premature
lines that danced across each face, filled with
blackened waters like neglected canals, in which
I would never dare (nor care) to swim.
That breeze passes slowly, indicative of these
streets, as we unbound those memories from
their corroded chains. As our feet sink into
our own foundations, we slowly peel our
smirking faces from our windows.

Before We Left

The sun rises craftily, as we drag that mattress
through the abandoned car park with the same
fragile film across our overworked eyes.
That last sliver of high, that gradually settles through our
backbones and leaves us greedy for the light behind.

We settle amongst the patches of grass and dandelions,
that shake seeds like snowstorms. We compare misadventures
with the usual hint of competition, which will only wilt when recognised. Our skin prepares for reconditioning, to hide
those all to frequent blemishes.

A slight shatter of glass at our feet brings us round,
our knees lift us back down that unpolished path,
that offers a dim light you refused to accept, leaving
us without doubt that this would ever repeat; our
presence to be muttered in whispers, by no one else
but ourselves.


Our fingers, reflective due to constant
splashes of chrome, each evening
they mirror the streetlights and sirens.
Within a few seconds, that surface is now
embalmed by our letters, like a null
and void contract, serving a purpose
only we would ever recognise.

A minimum of four colours, blended
upon concrete, its bricks and cracks
now irrelevant, our wrists as swift
as improvised notes played by rotten
fingers. The windows inscribed with
our names like grit-filled scars, removed
only once they gradually became septic.

And as the cameras force us to wane,
our voices no longer stained our fingers,
but echoed down more cleansed avenues.
Those walls now pristine, untouched
by hands with wayward knowledge,
their only purpose to orchestrate our
silence; instead, they eventually feed
our growth.

Laid Up

The backs of our knees embedded
in that bed linen, those white
cloths that carry stains that map
out each incident, like open bruises
upon untruthful skin.

Our voices held up with splints,
that slowly strain with each stretch
of our jaws, replacing vocal cords
with indestructible rubber, enabling
each word to remain amplified through
this pain.

The clack of wheels through corridors
that seem to widen with each yard,
the eyes that peel themselves unwillingly
from the unpolished floor, that we slip
upon with the first attempt at a stride
in months.

We then digest that hourly bitterness,
that nestles between tooth and gum,
a constant remainder of those states
that only seem to ease temporarily,
until we finally hear those fading,
comforting voices.

A Customer’s Grace

You can hear the banality of their afternoons even before
they open their mouths. The tick of clocks smothered
by dog barks and the squawks of lost crows.
Then the tirade begins; their throats like angered volcanoes,
their phone mouth-piece hovering over flaming lava
and chattering teeth.

A complete bypass of civility ensues, our ears and typing
fingers now sponges for regurgitated frustrations and un-addressed
failings: dissolved interactions, financial ruin, inadequacy; impotence..
Our calmness carries through, like burnt tyres sinking into blackened canals.

Once the chests have exploded, and the dust that feels
like our bones grounded by the bluntest pestle and mortar
finally settles, our smiles remain painted on, our teeth
gritted through prison bars, our eyelids pinned back,
we once again thank our forefathers for this opportunity,
to yet again apologise.

The Escape

These old streets, almost like tunnels,
the excitement these walls and buildings
projected still simmers under this depleting
afternoon. The abandoned car parks laden
with tags and broken glass still offers a slight
breeze of calm.

Those canals, that blend of tranquil fauna
against corroding steel still fails to offer any balance.
Their waters like blackened mirrors; to dip
even a toe would entice a fear far deeper
than the surrounding, soot-stained walls.

The cold air retains its mobility, our blood
slowly warms like neglected mud in summer.
We see the water’s pollutants slowly rise
the surface releasing a filth ridden mosaic
of everything that should remain hidden.

And those dim windows still offer up secrets
we never had the courage to accept, let alone
keep. A freshness continues to remain,
if only in our heads, that warmth only a mile
away each side if we allow this to collapse.


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